Nineteen-year-old Natalie Sims of Edina, Minnesota knows there are no limits to what she can achieve! Just a few months after graduating high school, Natalie represented the United States as a member of the Paralympic swim team in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Natalie was born missing part of her right arm and immediately began ongoing therapy and orthopaedic care from the expert staff at Shriners Hospitals for Children— Twin Cities. The doctors and therapists at Shriners Hospitals quickly recognized Natalie’s positive outlook and determination, qualities that have taken her all the way to international competitions!
Natalie began swimming just six years ago. Always eager to try new things, she joined her local YWCA’s swim club, the Minneapolis Otters. A few short years later, Natalie became one of the top athletes on the team.
In 2013, Natalie qualified for the U.S. Paralympic Swimming Emerging Team and started competing in the Unites States and abroad. Throughout the year, she trained with her high school and club swim teams, competing against both disabled and nondisabled athletes. She credits Shriners Hospitals with helping to fuel her competitive spirit.
As a young girl, Natalie attended the Twin Cities Shriners Hospital’s Camp Achieve, a week-long day camp designed to inspire children to reach beyond the traditional limits of their physical conditions. Natalie was inspired to give back to other kids facing challenges and has volunteered at Camp Achieve for several years. The camp, open to children as young as 5 with limb deficiencies, includes several fun activities such as paddleboarding, swimming, fishing and horseback riding. In the winter, kids have an opportunity to try skiing, snow tubing and snowshoeing.
At the 2016 Camp Achieve, Natalie met a little girl who was also missing her arm and was having a hard time putting her hair into a ponytail. Natalie worked patiently to show her exactly how to master the task. Natalie says that she loves working with other kids facing similar challenges in life. She hopes that by sharing her own story, she can show them there are no limits to what they can accomplish.
“Watching the kids who attend Camp Achieve grow and gain confidence in all aspects of life is exactly the outcome we hoped for when we started the camp 14 years ago,” said Maureen Johnston, director of child life for Shriners Hospitals for Children — Twin Cities. “Having patients who were once campers return to volunteer and share their experiences with the younger campers lets us know our vision for the camp has really become a reality. Natalie is one of those special campers and I am so proud of the caring and talented young woman she has become. Natalie is a champion to me and many others!”
Natalie’s story is an inspiration to many Shriners Hospitals for Children patients!